More than 46,000 Fijians are benefiting from Government’s bus fare subsidy which was introduced in 2011.
They include senior citizens and persons with disabilities
The Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Rosy Akbar, says the beneficiaries comprise of 44,120 elderly Fijians who are 60 years and above and 1892 persons living with disabilities.
The ministry has a $150,000 budget for this initiative. It allows the elderly to pay half the fare while persons living with disabilities are eligible for free bus fares.
Ms Akbar said empowering underprivileged persons, particularly senior citizens and persons with disabilities was a top priority for her ministry.
“The ministry, through its partnership with Police and the Non-Government Organisations, is also addressing issues concerning the mentally challenged who are left on the streets,” Ms Akbar said.
The Department of Social Welfare, this year, provided $200,000 as grants to 19 non-government organisations (NGOs) that contribute towards the welfare of disabled persons and senior citizens. Of this, 12 organisations assisted are affiliated to the Fiji National Council for Disabled Persons.
The president of Rewa Disabled People’s Association, Litia Naitanui, acknowledged the Government’s support in recognising the needs of disabled persons.
Ms Naitanui has 10 years experience in working as a community-based inclusive development officer serving in Naitasiri, Tailevu and Rewa.
“The data collected through my research shows that there are around 500 disabled persons in these provinces. Fifty per cent of these are women and most of these individuals face stigma, discrimination and isolation in their homes. There is a need for increased awareness to educate the families and communities to respect and empower disabled persons.
“I also formed the Rewa Disabled Women’s Group in 2012. It aims to economically empower women with disabilities. There are 30 women in this group who work actively by participating in weekly income generating programmes like sewing, baking and making handicrafts. Recently we have been acknowledged by Minister Rosy Akbar who shares our vision on the empowerment of women with disabilities.
“Based on our request, the ministry has donated three sewing machines to our group this year as we plan to expand our income generating projects. Helping women to become self-reliant and financially independent is a key vision we are working towards with the Ministry.
“We are grateful for programs like the free bus fare scheme and social welfare allowances. We thank the Bainimarama Government for its continued support in building an inclusive society for persons with disabilities,” Ms Naitanui said.